What Exactly Are Udon Noodles?

Have you been to Japan and tried this thick wheat noodles? Yes, it is called Udon which is very popular noodle all over Japan. It is often served as Kake Udon which is a hot noodle soup that is dashed in a mildly flavored broth made from dashi, soy sauce and mirin(facts).

Commonly found in most Japanese dishes, udon is also topped with flavorful ingredients. Common toppings include tempura(7 interesting facts), deep fried tofu or fish cake.  Although there are standard methods in preparing your udon dish, the flavor of the broth and topping varies from place to place. In eastern Japan, the broth is usually added with dark soy sauce giving it a brown colored broth while light soy sauce is often preferred in western Japan.

The good thing is that it is a versatile dish which can be serve regardless of season or weather. During the hot summer months, this noodle dish is served chilled while it is often made in to a hot noodle soup during winter or rainy season.


Among those popularly served in Japanese restaurants is the Zaru Udon. It is served chilled and comes with a dipping sauce that is similar with the way the thinner noodles of Zaru Soba are being consumed. Not only you will be satisfied with the gastronomic feast, but Zaru Udon is also intricately prepared and well presented on a bamboo mat.

On the other hand served hot or cold, Tanuki Udon is topped with the leftovers from the deep fried tempura batter called tenkasu.


Another type of udon dish that can be served hot or cold is Kitsune Udon. You can easily distinguish this as it is topped with thin sheets of fried tofu. If you want tempura on the noodles or as a side dish, then go for Tempura Udon.

Udon Noodles with Tempura

If you want a warm tummy, we recommend Tsukimi Udon where aside from sipping hot soup, you will also be nourished with a day’s intake of protein through the raw egg toppings and pork or beef on the side. If you are a curry lover, there is also a Curry Udon which uses Japanese Curry and is very popular during winter.

Udon noodle in curry soup by pelican, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by pelican

There are regional varieties on how udon is prepared. Named after the former province that is now called Kagawa Prefecture, Sanuki Udon is the most famous regional variety in Japan. The noodles are still thick but firm and chewy. 

Order to made Sanuki Udon at Shin, Shinj by Jun Seita, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by Jun Seita - Sanuki Udon

Another popular regional variety can be found in Gunma prefecture. The Mizusawa Udon is traditionally handmade from locally grown wheat and is served chilled and dipped with either soy sauce or sesame seed sauce.

In case you haven’t tried this type of noodle dish yet, make sure to visit one of the many Udon specialty shops scattered all over the peninsula and taste this unique and authentic Japanese cuisine.